The criminal case of once-upon-a-time cannabis club owner Joshua Braun closed last fall, but the legal bickering continued in earnest this week in Judge Brian Hill’s courtroom. Driving the verbal sparring was a laundry list of seized personal items, running the gamut from business receipts, computers, and cell phones to a coin collection, glass jars, and a coffee grinder, that have not been returned to Braun despite his plea deal cut with the District Attorney’s Office in early October. (He pleaded guilty to a felony charge of marijuana sales and a misdemeanor charge of money laundering related to his now-shuttered club, Hortipharm). In short, as an agitated Judge Hill summed up Monday, “It was the DA that promised Mr. Braun that all his personal property that wasn’t forfeited would be returned. He is entitled to that benefit within a reasonable period of time, and it has been six months. … It is time for his things to be returned.”
Unfortunately for all parties involved, things aren’t that simple. Around the same time that Braun’s attorney Liz O’Brien filed a motion in mid March requesting that the overdue goods be returned, Senior Deputy DA Brian Cota — who is prosecuting criminal cases related to raids on Pacific Coast Collective (PCC), a medical marijuana dispensary that Braun allegedly consulted for — got a search warrant to essentially re-seize 79 items from the list. The move would prevent the Braun case prosecutor, Deputy DA Von Nguyen, from being able to completely satisfy the demands of O’Brien’s motion.
This confusion came to a head during two separate hearings this week with Hill repeatedly taking the DA’s Office to task for their handling of the divergent yet dovetailing issues. Though admitting to understanding Cota’s need to re-seize certain items given their relevance as potential evidence in a case yet to be resolved, the judge was upset with the way the obviously inconsistent positions of the two prosecuting attorneys was communicated to Braun and his legal team, especially since the PCC case predates Braun’s original arrest. “It’s not fair dealing, to say the least, on the part of the prosecution,” opined Hill.
In the end, after Cota explained that he has a “good faith belief” that the PCC matter will be resolved by a still-brewing plea deal in early May and thus remove any need by the DA’s Office to retain any of Braun’s property, the debate was continued to May 7.